A Look Back at How We “Evolved” in 2020
While last year was filled with an abundance of sadness, uncertainty and civil unrest, it’s important not to overlook accomplishments and successes. As we put our 2021 plan into motion, I’d like to highlight the key awards, news coverage, launches, customer achievements and key lessons from 2020 that have set us up for an outstanding 2021. But first, I’d like to say how grateful we are for our customers and partners; you continue to put your trust and confidence in us to keep your visitors and employees safe.
January…Making Strategic Moves for the Year Ahead
At the beginning of 2020, Evolv made several strategic moves to scale operations and meet the unprecedented demand for free-flow weapons screening by raising $30 million in growth capital from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and others, promoting Peter George to CEO and expanding our research, development and productization efforts led by Co-founder Mike Ellenbogen.
Little did we know that those moves would help us keep our doors open through the pandemic and establish our market leadership among security screening companies worldwide, setting us up to assist venues and facilities to safely reopen throughout the year. As 2020 momentum was building, we were recognized as a great place to work, honored as one of Built in Boston’s prestigious Best Small Companies to Work for in 2020.
February…Working Towards our Mission of Making it Safer to Learn
One month into the year, we took huge strides in living our mission of making it safer to learn by partnering with two South Carolina school districts who installed Evolv’s AI-based, free-flow weapons-detection systems. Taking proactive measures to keep students safe was paramount for both school districts, given the increasing frequency of school shootings and related incidents. Dr. Mark Smith, Director of Student Services and Safety at Spartanburg 6, the first school in the nation to use Evolv’s AI-based free-flow weapons detection system stated, “We wanted to incorporate security technology not because we had any incidents, but because we wanted to ensure we never have one. I’d been researching security strategies and next generation technologies searching for a solution that delivered optimal security while providing a welcoming, non-prison-like environment for everyone on campus. I’d been coming up short until I discovered Evolv. They checked all the boxes.” As much as that statement meant to us, the most meaningful moment of the deployment was having a student walk over after the initial installation and say, “thank you, I finally feel safe.” That’s why we do what we do. It was Spartanburg’s ability to see beyond “the norm” that set all of this in motion and established a new baseline of security for schools across the nation.
March… Unprecedented Achievement for Evolv…and the Pandemic Took Hold
Just weeks after launching Evolv Express™ in school districts, and as the pandemic sadly began to spread, we were honored for outstanding campus security services and products, by being recognized by Campus Security & Life Safety with a Platinum Perimeter Protection and a Gold Screening Equipment 2020 Secure Campus Award. One week later, as we settled into our “work from home” routines, we were awarded the world’s most revered innovation award, a Gold 2020 Edison Award in the Threat Defense and Security Category. Winning an award of this caliber against elite competition worldwide was a true honor for everyone at Evolv.
April…Regrouping and Re-Engineering to Address the Pandemic Health Threat
In April, as all non-essential businesses shut down, or started to find a “work from home” rhythm, we saw a massive increase in factory worker hiring and an increase in uncertainty, civil unrest and the start of ongoing violence. We also saw a shift in security threats. No longer were CSOs and COOs worrying solely about weapons as threats, now they had to worry about health threats as well. Our executive team was refining our strategy, while engineering and product management started reshaping our roadmap. Security screening as we knew it was probably changing forever, and our solution was more important now than ever before.
While it would have been so easy to become stuck in what we coined, “the COVID fog”, our employees rallied together, hunkered down and worked even longer hours to serve our customer mission globally and sustain manufacturing.
First on the list for our updated product roadmap was to evaluate and build an add-on thermal imaging package to help venues and facilities spot individuals with elevated skin temperature who might be possible health threats. While our support team managed calls assisting venues with reallocating systems to different locations, our marketing team developed a customer spotlight program to drive awareness and business to customers online, and our Customer Success Team established a Best Practice program for customers, setting up customer meetings to field questions, help share trends and lessons learned across industries as everyone worked together to keep our various communities safe. And while the teams were hard at work, working remote and assisting customers meet the new security demands, we were honored by the Tech Tribune as a 2020 Best Tech Startup in Waltham
May…Time for Adaptive Recovery
Throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic, we continued to be surprised and honored, and in May we earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Best Workplaces List, where they recognize successful businesses that value company culture, offer standout worker benefits and prioritize employee well-being. This award helped shine a light on why we all love working for Evolv…it’s a family and we all are driving towards the mission of keeping people safe. Our customer partnerships are an extension of that family, and we knew we had to do everything possible to help venues and facilities adapt and recover. We were lucky enough to be able to call on one of our Advisors, Juliette Kayyem, to host an hour-long webinar discussing the adaptive recovery process for schools, workplaces and ticketed venues. She was able to offer hundreds of venues and facilities strategic guidance into how to adapt and recover during this unprecedented time.
June…Reopening America with Touchless Security Screening
Since the launch of Evolv Express, interest in the free-flow, respectful, fast screening had been strong. What we hadn’t focused on until the pandemic was its “touchless” capability. Because Express offers free-flow screening, and drastically reduces the need for secondary screening, we realized that Express was the only screening solution out there that enables social-distancing at entrances while still screening people as they walked in the door. And, in June, we were grateful to help reopen some North American sites with touchless security screening starting at Six Flags locations nationwide, Set Jet and several others. Together we were reimagining security in the recreation space.
What once was a “nice-to-have”, was now an imperative. People refuse to be touched. People cannot and will not stand in lines. And, Express was and is the one solution that enables safe screening at a distance. It was an ‘Aha!’ moment for all of us…
July…Taking the Temperature on Thermal Imaging as Touchless Screening Demand Surges
As customers such as Georgia Aquarium, Six Flags Theme Parks and others reopened throughout the summer with Express systems in place, we saw a demand surge for touchless security screening. We also were hearing of many other new security tactics and operations solutions enabling touchless guest experiences that were being adopted by our customers. We called upon Anthony Rivera from Georgia Aquarium and Todd Fasulo of Wynn Resorts, to host the webinar “It’s Time to go Touchless”. Their years of experience in both security and hospitality left us with a number of important takeaways, including: 1) Adopt a culture of relentless innovation; all things can be improved upon; 2) Think “five-star experience” as you approach every step of your guest, visitor or employee journey; and 3) Engage your full leadership team, ensuring public safety AND public health are organization-wide strategic imperatives.
In keeping with the notion of “going touchless”, Evolv was thrilled to launch our thermal imaging package for Express. Venues and facilities could now screen for both weapons and elevated skin temperature in an integrated, touchless fashion ensuring safe screening for all involved.
August…A Global Partnership is Announced and Cultural Institutions Begin to Reopen
In August, we announced a global partnership with STANLEY Security, the world’s second-largest electronic security company. As a result, organizations receive unparalleled expertise and the full spectrum of value-added services from the two combined companies. Shortly after our partnership was announced, we were honored by Campus Safety Magazine with the Campus Safety Best Electronic Systems Technologies (BEST) award for the “Inspection & Detection Equipment” category. As CEO Peter George stated, “As classrooms begin to reopen, public officials, administrators and security professionals alike share a commitment to do so safely. Keeping people safe is Evolv’s core mission and we’re honored to be recognized by Campus Safety magazine’s 2020 BEST awards for the tremendous value Evolv Express brings to campuses nationwide.”
Just as schools were beginning to reopen and find a “new normal”, so too were museums and cultural institutions, such as those in New York City. Our customer success team spent the month working with customers like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and several others to ensure a smooth and safe reopening.
September…A Golden Ticket to Safety and the Rise of the Digital Threshold
In September our teams were now in full swing working with customers nationwide as they slowly and carefully reopened, several of which were proudly showcasing new attractions, exhibits and entrances. One such customer was Hersheypark, who used the shutdown time to finish rebuilding a brand new entrance for a better customer experience including the incorporation of touchless screening to eliminate the need for person-by-person manual bag checks. With metal detectors, it typically took the park four to five seconds per person for screening, regularly followed by hand searching of bags or other personal items, so not only was this a welcomed change by park guests, but the park’s security professionals emphasized how easy it was to learn and use the system while optimizing their staff resources.
As mentioned earlier, Six Flags also updated their entrances, in fact, they won an Amusement Today Golden Ticket Innovation of the Year Award for their entrance improvements which included incorporating Evolv Express for park guest screening.
By mid-September, we had spent months talking to customers, analyzing market trends and watching nationwide violence and civil unrest hit new highs. We used that newly found knowledge coupled with expertise in both the physical and digital security spaces to build a new vision, one where the physical and digital security realms merge, and our CEO published “The Rise of the Digital Threshold” piece illustrating our thoughts on security of the future.
Tied to that new vision, we launched a webcast series called Digital Threshold Live where Co-founder Anil Chitkara talks with security, operations and guest experience professionals about emerging trends, lessons learned and so much more.
October…The Current Threat Environment and Reopening Safely
Kicking off the month of October, we held our first episode of Digital Threshold Live. In the first episode, Anil talked about safely reopening New York’s premiere arts venues with Keith Prewitt, Chief Security Officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lisa Schroeder, Director of Finance, Performance and Campus Operations for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Thomas Slade, Senior Security Director for the American Museum of Natural History.
Our second episode was held three weeks later where Anil sat one-on-one with Managing Director of Corporate Safety and Security for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, Jason White, to discuss trust and confidence being the foundation of delivering an exceptional visitor experience. In each of these episodes, Anil and the guest speakers covered a variety of topics related to public safety, public health, the customer journey and the path back to normal.
Mid-way through the month, we proudly sponsored Counter Terror Business’ CTB365 event where our European Sales Director, Nathan Bailey, gave a virtual keynote presentation around “the current threat environment and the need for layered security strategy”, and then Co-founder Anil Chitkara joined esteemed security professionals and advocates in the final Panel Discussion & Round-up featuring: Philip Ingram, Figen Murray, Rick Mounfield, Paul Jeffrey, Gary Simpson and Nick Aldworth.
While a majority of outdoor ticketed venues were finding ways to reopen throughout the summer and fall, many of our beloved performing arts venues, stadiums and indoor arenas were unfortunately dealing with a different situation. Many sports venues allowed the games to take place, but they were without fans and most of their employees, such as Manchester Arena. For some performing arts venues, opening up was highly dependent on location. For instance, Omaha Performing Arts Venue was able to reopen in October after installing Evolv Express as their new security scanners to eliminate close contact between employees and attendees and changing to cashless transactions.
Others, such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, created an online community for arts lovers to enjoy music and live performances virtually in what they call “Lincoln Center at Home”. Others took innovation and “thinking outside the box” to a new level. Dr. Phillips Center decided if people can’t be inside to see the performances, they’d bring the performances outside to the people. And, in October they announced their new series “Frontyard Festival”, an all-new outdoor, six-month long festival for downtown Orlando that started in December. Front Yard Festival features live entertainment in a safe, socially-distanced environment, using Evolv Express as part of their security operation.
November…Time for Research
While we are in constant communication with venues and facilities throughout the world who provide a wealth of anecdotal information, we were thirsty for formal data. To help venues and facilities with their planning assumptions for 2021, we decided it was time for market research. With Harris Insights we embarked on a survey. This Harris Poll was conducted online with more than 1,500 American adults who have a personal stake in the security screening experience: consumers who attended ticketed events in 2019 (n=506), parents of school-aged children (n=712), and workers at large factories, warehouses and distribution centers (n=504). Anil and Erica Parker, managing director at The Harris Poll, reviewed these research results and discussed the implications for workplaces, schools, ticketed venues and other facilities in mid-November in Episode 3 of Evolv’s Digital Threshold Live webcast series.
December…Putting a Bow on 2020
In the beginning of the month, Mahesh Saptharishi, CTO at Motorola Solutions, joined Anil in Episode 4 of Digital Threshold Live: “Why Technology Convergence in the Digital Threshold Matters” to talk about the technological possibilities at the intersection of sensors and AI, exploring the business drivers, the technology and ultimately the effect on humans. He told us that “Machine learning are the core algorithmic capabilities that power AI,” and with regards to physical security, “when cameras, or when systems, see things, detect objects or respond to what the objects are doing in the scene, that is artificial intelligence, but that ability to detect and the ability for that system to adapt to the environment is powered by machine learning algorithms.”
In December we received three honors. Frost & Sullivan recognized Evolv with the 2020 North American Technology Innovation Leadership Award for Evolv Express™ publishing a full industry report. BostInno named us one of Boston’s hottest startups with an Inno on Fire 2020 Blazer Award; and we were awarded a 2020 Platinum ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award from American Security Today.
To tie a bow around what we learned from 2020 and put it to work in 2021, Anil welcomed Courtney Adante, President and Security Risk Advisor, and Jonathan Wackrow, Managing Director and Global Head of Security from Teneo, a global CEO consulting and advisory firm to join him for Digital Threshold Live Episode 5 – Resilience Is A Competitive Necessity: Learnings From 2020 And Considerations For 2021. Resilience is central, it’s an organization’s ability to respond, recover and rebound, and the challenges of 2020 have made it abundantly clear that resilience planning is critical.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Throughout the year, several themes emerged among our customers and their industries: 1) touchless solutions are the key to building confidence and customer reengagement; 2) sharing lessons learned across institutions and venues within one’s industry is a true treasure; 3) a layered security strategy is the only way to adapt and recover from any tragic event; and 4) the security landscape and the CSO’s role has changed forever.
As we move into the second week of 2021, I hope you and your organization are able to use what we’ve learned to build a more robust security infrastructure and customer experience for 2021. We look forward to our continued partnerships and for those who haven’t yet reached out to have a conversation, I’m only an email or phone call away. And, don’t forget to check back periodically for the latest Digital Threshold Live event.
Cheers, here’s to a successful and safe 2021, and thank you for entrusting us with your safety.
Harris Poll Shows Physical Security is Crucial to Getting Kids Back in School
By: Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder
Parents are equally concerned about mass shootings and COVID; the majority want weapons screening in place.
While effectively dealing with COVID-19 is top-of-mind for facilities managers as they work toward getting students back to school full-time, a recent Harris Poll we commissioned indicates there’s significant concern over violence and crime to be overcome as well. And in the COVID era, traditional screening methods that create lines and crowding will no longer be acceptable as a mitigation measure.
For the poll, more than 700 parents of K-12 school-aged children were surveyed in Sept. and Oct. 2020. It found 87% of the parents were either very or somewhat concerned about their kids contacting COVID upon returning to school. But concern over their physical security was a close second, at 81%. Although parents in urban areas were more likely to be somewhat or very concerned than their suburban counterparts, over half of suburban parents are concerned about the physical security of their children, 74% vs. 54%, respectively.
Eight out of ten parents are concerned about the physical security of their school age children.
COVID measures yes, but physical security, too
It’s a similar story when looking at COVID-19 prevention protocols and measures to ensure physical safety.
Having schools follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols is important to parents feeling safe about their kids. More than 90% of parents say it’s important for schools to ensure frequent handwashing and sanitizing, increased cleaning, mask wearing, social distancing and temperature screening (see Figure 1).
While that is certainly understandable, what may be surprising is that parents are nearly as concerned over physical security measures intended to keep students safe. More than 9 in 10 parents said it was somewhat or very important that each of the following measures be in place:
- Locked doors and visitors showing ID: 92%
- Presence of law enforcement: 92%
- All classrooms have door locks: 91%
- Metal detector for screening: 91%
Over 90% of parents say it is important to have a metal detector to screen for weapons coming into schools.
Part of the reason for concern over physical security measures is a fear of violence in public spaces. Sadly, school safety has been an issue for decades now. But concern seems to be growing, as the poll found 68% of parents think the risk is higher now than a year ago. Perhaps even more concerning, more than a third (31%) say going out in public is “mostly” or “very” unsafe.
Almost 90% of parents are concerned about a mass shooting in schools, matching the same level of concern about COVID.
In fact, parents are just as concerned over the risk of various sorts of physical violence as they are of COVID. Indeed, 88% of parents are somewhat or very concerned about COVID, the exact same number as for mass shootings. The numbers are similar for other forms of threats:
- Protest-related civil unrest/violence: 86%
- Street crime: 83%
- Terrorism: 76%
COVID-related issues with metal detectors
So, it’s clear schools will have to take steps to assuage parents’ concerns over various physical threats. But the poll makes clear the pandemic is making that more challenging.
Parents now see issues with traditional metal detector screening. More than three quarters of parents are concerned that screening can create long lines and requires a student’s belongings to be touched by a security guard (see Figure 2). Fewer but still significant numbers of parents cite issues such as the possibility for human error, creating crowds that violate social distancing guidelines, and the need for physical pat-downs and searches.
The poll makes clear any schools using traditional metal detector screening are in for some backlash from parents. In the COVID era, at least half of parents are not willing to accept many of the problems associated with traditional metal detectors, including:
- Crowds that violate social distancing guidelines
- Use of outdated technology
- False positives
- Slow or inefficient processes
- Physical pat down searches
Three out of four parents are concerned that security screening creates lines, and two thirds of them would not join a line that lacked social distancing.
Here’s another stat from the poll that I found fairly astounding: When parents were asked what they would do if they saw a security line in which people were not socially distancing, nearly two-thirds (65%) said they would not join the line. This inclination was far more pronounced in urban (73%) and suburban (64%) areas than rural (43%).
A touchless screening experience
I discussed this issue, along with many others, in a webinar with Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll. “When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [parents are] not interested in that,” she said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.
The vast majority of parents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.
That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screener; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives – meaning mistaking a harmless item for a weapon – which means there’s no need for pat-downs.
All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and powerful sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.
New back to school requirements
The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for parents of K-12 students, their physical safety is a close second. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep kids safe and secure.
Parents will appreciate schools that implement a touchless approach, as 85% of them agree that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a school building makes them more comfortable. And more than three quarters (78%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.
With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and safely welcome kids back to school. To learn more, visit Evolv.
A Look at Touchless Security Screening
New security screening requirements in a post-pandemic world
Pre-pandemic, venue screening procedures relied on metal detectors, hand wands, and invasive bag inspections. While it was evident those methods were inefficient, frustrating and intrusive, in the pandemic-sensitive world, they are far too slow and manual and will result in unsafe crowding and dangerous physical contact.
The days of putting our phones and bags in containers handled by security guards are over
At Evolv, we are solving the security screening problems of today with the most innovative technology and thinking, making it possible for venues of all kinds to keep visitors and employees safe from concealed weapons and pandemic health threats.
In the wake of COVID-19, a fundamentally new approach to security screening is necessary for venues to safely reopen. To help people visualize what this screening looks like, we’ve produced a new video highlighting Evolv Express™ in action at several customer locations.
It’s security screening that is touchless, respectful and efficient.
Evolv Express™ vs. the Traditional Metal Detector
By: Julie Zomar, Director of Marketing, Evolv Technology
In today’s era of viral violence, we should no longer be screening with yesterday’s technology. Manual inspections, hand wands and traditional metal detectors are slow, invasive, inefficient, involve too many nuisance alarms and create long lines, forcing venues to choose between safety and the visitor experience.
Did you know, some venues are actually opting not to implement any security at all because they’d rather not make the trade-off between safety and visitor experience? This can’t be the choice you make.
Deploying screening technology in your venue is no longer something you and your team should dread or delay. With Evolv Express™, the first-of-its-kind free-flow weapons-detection system, visitors and employees walk through while simultaneously being screened for potential threats.
Through the power of AI, Express instantly differentiates threats from personal items such as keys, coins, belts and cell phones, making it easy for guards and frictionless for visitors. In fact, visitors no longer need to stop, empty pockets or remove bags. They simply walk right through at a natural pace one-at-a-time or in groups. It’s the fastest weapons-screening product on the market, screening 60 people every minute. That’s 3,600 people per hour – 10X faster than a traditional metal detector.
This two-lane system is approximately 11 feet wide and requires far fewer guards than traditional metal detectors to manage. In fact, some venues are seeing a 70% reduction in labor costs.
For those of you accustomed to traditional metal detectors, it’s going to be a positive shock…
- You no longer need a large footprint for security equipment
- Long, frustrating security screening lines will no longer form outside your venue
- Guards will now be able to conduct targeted searches using image-aided alarms
- And, your labor costs will decrease by up to 70%
Finally, venues can stop threats, while assuring a welcoming visitor and employee experience.
If at 800 people per hour, you need 50% less screening equipment, and 60% fewer guards, imagine what your coop would look like as your visitor throughput needs increase. Download our full infographic to see what screening 1200, 1600, 2400 and 3600 people per hour would look like with Evolv Express versus traditional metal detectors.
Ensure Your Graduation Season is Memorable & Safe:
Do away with “old school” technology
While high school and college graduates, along with their proud families, gather across the U.S. to celebrate their academic achievements, real-time security should be at top of mind for school administrators and security staff.
Graduation ceremonies take place in a multitude of venues, from gymnasiums and performing arts centers, to outdoor areas or other large venues intended to accommodate the thousands of faculty, students and family members in attendance. Some larger college graduations even take place in stadiums that seat more than 90,000 people. While a crowd of 90,000 people makes for a joyous celebration, it also presents a number of security risks and challenges that academic institutions must address.
The reality is that school-related attacks are on the rise and your top priority should be protecting those in attendance. In order to feel confident that graduation is an enjoyable and safe experience for all, you and your security team need to overcome one of the biggest roadblocks ― Metal Detectors are Old-School!
Yes, we just said it, metal detectors simply are not designed to detect and prevent today’s modern threats. Since the late 1900s, the technology has changed very little, and anyone who has had to wait in a queue to go through one for an event knows that they’re incredibly slow-paced and often trigger false alarms. Yet, too many schools and venues still rely on old metal detector technology to screen large crowds.
Metal Detector Technology Limitations and Disadvantages
The technology in metal detectors is designed to detect metal and simply can’t disambiguate between a cell phone, toy or gun. It forces individuals one-by-one to divest of articles of clothing, belts, shoes, phones, keys, bags and more. Further, when guards repeatedly find that the detectors’ alarms are due to those everyday items and not weapons, they become desensitized and inadvertently less effective in the screening process.
Forcing individuals one-by-one to empty their pockets, and have your guards rummage through their personal belongings cause frustration for all parties involved. This slow, single-file security procedure creates a bottleneck of anxious people waiting to enter your venue, rather than creating a positive, seamless visitor experience.
The hassle, frustration and long lines that metal detectors cause, combined with their old-school technology that only detect metallic items, can create scenarios where the screening process itself is more of a risk than the threats the detectors are trying to mitigate. For instance, generating bottlenecks also creates a “soft target”, a person or group that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to a mass shooting or terrorist attack, in and of itself.
Taking a New Approach to Real-Time Visitor Screening
As the threats against academic institutions increase, you should look to adopt new advanced weapons-screening solutions that combine powerful sensors and artificial intelligence to better screen crowds of people simultaneously, while pinpointing threats such as guns, knives and other objects. These solutions efficiently identify threats, and help eliminate the large crowds gathered in front of the screening area.
Graduation day is one of the happiest days in the lives of students and their families. Through a combination of smart security and advanced technology, we can keep it that way.
The Lesson We Still Need to Learn from Sandy Hook
By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO of Evolv Technology –
Six years after the tragedy, we’re still treating active shooter attacks as isolated incidents
It’s been six years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. A week after that awful day, Evolv advisor Juliette Kayyam wrote an incisive, rage-fueled column for the Boston Globe, entitled “Details are a Distraction in Newtown Killing”. Her plea was for society to stop fixating on the personal stories of each active shooter, as though perfect understanding could somehow prevent future attacks, and focus instead on pragmatic, real-world measures to dissuade all would-be attackers.
For Juliette, gun control is an essential part of the solution. But whatever your political beliefs, there’s no arguing her goal: to make an unsafe world as safe as it can be, without impinging on our free way of life. That’s been Evolv’s mission from the start.
We are fortunate to have Juliette on board to advise us and help spread our message. She was homeland security advisor for the state of Massachusetts, before becoming President Obama’s Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security. These days, she is a frequent guest analyst on CNN.
Here is a link to Juliette’s column. It’s worth reading again.
Read more from Juliette in A Citizen’s Guide to Stopping the Next Active Shooter.
Bulletproof backpacks, #2 pencils and iPads – Preparing for Back-to-School Season in the Era of Active Shooters
By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO at Evolv Technology
The impending Labor Day celebration not only signifies the end of summer but also the start of the back-to-school season. Whether school buses are already making their daily routes through your neighborhood or you’re still chasing your kids to finish those final pages in their assigned summer reading, there is a dark cloud lingering above the back-to-school season: active shooter prevention and protection.
In past years, those of us who are parents have become accustomed to the run-of-the-mill back-to-school shopping list. However, as we enter the 2018-2019 school year, we are facing purchase decisions we never thought we would have to make. The list we’re armed with doesn’t feel quite as light in our hands.
Bulletproof backpacks, clear backpacks and TuffyPacks. These are now the items that fill back-to-school shopping carts.
The active shooter incidents that targeted schools last year created a ripple effect that was felt around the country. With reports of Parkland still ringing in our ears, school boards, superintendents and principals spent the summer brainstorming and hypothesizing about potential solutions. While parents have been tracking down bulletproof school supplies, teachers have been immersed in active shooter training programs while school districts are spending millions installing bulletproof windows.
Undeniably, this is an issue that needs to be solved particularly as soft targets and large places where individuals gather continue to be targets for attackers. Today, attackers are looking to inflict as much pain and damage as possible with one attack. What’s more, in the U.S. in particular, the access to guns has made it easy for anyone with a grievance to act on it in a way that can affect hundreds of lives.
As school districts, local officials, parents and students rally together to put forth a solution, it’s difficult to get a grasp on where to start or what even qualifies as a good solution. Some schools are already equipped with metal detectors – should others follow suit? Are metal detectors practical for a school environment? What about AI, facial recognition and other innovative technologies? When is it an invasion of privacy?
As the need for solutions to combat active shooters in schools continues to grow, the security industry is responding two-fold on both the consulting side and the technology side. Organizations of all sizes have been motivated to deliver technology that will help make school a safer place. As a result, the number of solutions and innovations available to us seem endless.
Technology can help us do incredible things. It can analyze thousands of data points in seconds. It can help you see things from miles away. It can identify an object as something specific based on pre-programmed characteristics. Leveraging technology – whether it be cameras or sensors – and applying it to physical security, particularly as it relates to schools, can significantly improve the safety of the environment without creating a prison-like atmosphere.
One technology that cannot be ignored when discussing this topic is face recognition. Today many schools require students to carry photo ID badges which allow them to get onto campus and also enter various buildings on school property. The face recognition most schools rely on today is based on staff using their eyes to detect someone or something that’s “just not right”. This is inconsistent, inherently fallible, and biased. Automated face recognition technology doesn’t blink – it’s always on, it’s consistent and objective, rather than relying on human memory and attention. Face recognition can be instrumental in helping to enhance a school’s security posture by automatically identifying individuals who shouldn’t be on the premises, or others that pose a potential threat based on input from local law enforcement, teachers or school administration.
Technology however, is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s more than just leveraging the technology available today to solve this problem – it’s about fostering a conversation. While it is promising to see school districts around the country spring into action ahead of the coming school year, there is a need for much closer, tighter coordination between all involved parties.
Only when we take an integrated, holistic approach – that marries technology and the broader discussion – will we find ourselves with a proactive plan to combat this problem. At Evolv, we look forward to continuing to cultivate those partnerships and foster those much-needed conversations as we work to identify a solution to this ever-pressing problem.